Pah-hah-undootah The Red Head


As spring approaches, the Indians return from their wintering grounds

to their villages, engage in feasting, soon exhaust their stock of

provisions, and begin to suffer for the want of food. Such of the

hunters as are of an active and enterprising cast of character, take

the occasion to separate from the mass of the population, and remove to

some neighboring locality in the forest, which promises the means of

subsistence during this season of general lassitude and enjoyment.

Among the families who thus separated themselves, on a certain occasion,

there was a man called Odshedoph Waucheentongah, or the Child of Strong

Desires, who had a wife and one son. After a day's travel he reached an

ample wood with his family, which was thought to be a suitable place to

encamp. The wife fixed the lodge, while the husband went out to hunt.

Early in the evening he returned with a deer. Being tired and thirsty he

asked his son to go to the river for some water. The son replied that it

was dark and he was afraid. He urged him to go, saying that his mother,

as well as himself, was tired, and the distance to the water was very

short. But no persuasion was of any avail. He refused to go. "Ah, my

son," said the father, at last, "if you are afraid to go to the river,

you will never kill the Red Head."

The boy was deeply mortified by this observation. It seemed to call up

all his latent energies. He mused in silence. He refused to eat, and

made no reply when spoken to.

The next day he asked his mother to dress the skin of the deer, and make

it into moccasins for him, while he busied himself in preparing a bow

and arrows. As soon as these things were done, he left the lodge one

morning at sunrise, without saying a word to his father or mother. He

fired one of his arrows into the air, which fell westward. He took that

course, and at night coming to the spot where the arrow had fallen, was

rejoiced to find it piercing the heart of a deer. He refreshed himself

with a meal of the venison, and the next morning fired another arrow.

After travelling all day, he found it also in another deer. In this

manner he fired four arrows, and every evening found that he had killed

a deer. What was very singular, however, was, that he left the arrows

sticking in the carcasses, and passed on without withdrawing them. In

consequence of this, he had no arrow for the fifth day, and was in great

distress at night for the want of food. At last he threw himself upon

the ground in despair, concluding that he might as well perish there as

go further. But he had not lain long before he heard a hollow, rumbling

noise, in the ground beneath him. He sprang up, and discovered at a

distance the figure of a human being, walking with a stick. He looked

attentively and saw that the figure was walking in a wide beaten path,

in a prairie, leading from a lodge to a lake. To his surprise, this

lodge was at no great distance. He approached a little nearer and

concealed himself. He soon discovered that the figure was no other than

that of the terrible witch, Wok-on-kahtohn-zooeyah-pee-kah-haitchee, or

the little old woman who makes war. Her path to the lake was perfectly

smooth and solid, and the noise our adventurer had heard, was caused by

the striking of her walking staff upon the ground. The top of this staff

was decorated with a string of the toes and bills of birds of every

kind, who at every stroke of the stick, fluttered and sung their various

notes in concert.

She entered her lodge and laid off her mantle, which was entirely

composed of the scalps of women. Before folding it, she shook it

several times, and at every shake the scalps uttered loud shouts of

laughter, in which the old hag joined. Nothing could have frightened

him more than this horrific exhibition. After laying by the cloak she

came directly to him. She informed him that she had known him from the

time he left his father's lodge, and watched his movements. She told

him not to fear or despair, for she would be his friend and protector.

She invited him into her lodge, and gave him a supper. During the

repast, she inquired of him his motives for visiting her. He related

his history, stated the manner in which he had been disgraced, and the

difficulties he labored under. She cheered him with the assurance of

her friendship, and told him he would be a brave man yet.

She then commenced the exercise of her power upon him. His hair being

very short, she took a large leaden comb, and after drawing it through

his hair several times, it became of a handsome feminine length. She

then proceeded to dress him as a female, furnishing him with the

necessary garments, and decorated his face with paints of the most

beautiful dye. She gave him a bowl of shining metal. She directed him to

put in his girdle a blade of scented sword-grass, and to proceed the

next morning to the banks of the lake, which was no other than that over

which the Red Head reigned. Now Pah-hah-undootah, or the Red Head, was a

most powerful sorcerer and the terror of all the country, living upon an

island in the centre of the lake.

She informed him that there would be many Indians on the island, who,

as soon as they saw him use the shining bowl to drink with, would come

and solicit him to be their wife, and to take him over to the island.

These offers he was to refuse, and say that he had come a great

distance to be the wife of the Red Head, and that if the chief could

not come for her in his own canoe, she should return to her village.

She said that as soon as the Red Head heard of this, he would come for

her in his own canoe, in which she must embark. On reaching the island

he must consent to be his wife, and in the evening induce him to take a

walk out of the village, when he was to take the first opportunity to

cut off his head with the blade of grass. She also gave him general

advice how he was to conduct himself to sustain his assumed character

of a woman. His fear would scarcely permit him to accede to this plan,

but the recollection of his father's words and looks decided him.

Early in the morning, he left the witch's lodge, and took the hard

beaten path to the banks of the lake. He reached the water at a point

directly opposite the Red Head's village. It was a beautiful day. The

heavens were clear, and the sun shone out in the greatest effulgence.

He had not been long there, having sauntered along the beach, when he

displayed the glittering bowl, by dipping water from the lake. Very

soon a number of canoes came off from the island. The men admired his

dress, and were charmed with his beauty, and a great number made

proposals of marriage. These he promptly declined, agreeably to the

concerted plan. When the facts were reported to the Red Head, he

ordered his canoe to be put in the water by his chosen men, and crossed

over to see this wonderful girl. As he came near the shore, he saw that

the ribs of the sorcerer's canoe were formed of living rattlesnakes,

whose heads pointed outward to guard him from enemies. Our adventurer

had no sooner stepped into the canoe than they began to hiss and

rattle, which put him in a great fright. But the magician spoke to

them, after which they became pacified and quiet, and all at once they

were at the landing upon the island. The marriage immediately took

place, and the bride made presents of various valuables which had been

furnished by the old witch.

As they were sitting in the lodge surrounded by friends and relatives,

the mother of the Red Head regarded the face of her new daughter-in-law

for a long time with fixed attention. From this scrutiny she was

convinced that this singular and hasty marriage augured no good to her

son. She drew her husband aside and disclosed to him her suspicions:

"This can be no female," said she; "the figure and manners, the

countenance, and more especially the expression of the eyes, are,

beyond a doubt, those of a man." Her husband immediately rejected her

suspicions, and rebuked her severely for the indignity offered to her

daughter-in-law. He became so angry, that seizing the first thing that

came to hand, which happened to be his pipe stem, he beat her

unmercifully. This act requiring to be explained to the spectators, the

mock bride immediately rose up, and assuming an air of offended

dignity, told the Red Head that after receiving so gross an insult from

his relatives he could not think of remaining with him as his wife, but

should forthwith return to his village and friends. He left the lodge

followed by the Red Head, and walked until he came upon the beach of

the island, near the spot where they had first landed. Red Head

entreated him to remain. He pressed him by every motive which he

thought might have weight, but they were all rejected. During this

conference they had seated themselves upon the ground, and Red Head, in

great affliction, reclined his head upon his fancied wife's lap. This

was the opportunity ardently sought for, and it was improved to the

best advantage. Every means was taken to lull him to sleep, and partly

by a soothing manner, and partly by a seeming compliance with his

request, the object was at last attained. Red Head fell into a sound

sleep. Our aspirant for the glory of a brave man then drew his blade of

grass, and drawing it once across the neck of the Red Head completely

severed the head from the body.

He immediately stripped off his dress, seized the bleeding head, and

plunging into the lake, swam safely over to the main shore. He had

scarcely reached it, when, looking back, he saw amid the darkness the

torches of persons come out in search of the new-married couple. He

listened till they had found the headless body, and he heard their

piercing shrieks of sorrow, as he took his way to the lodge of his kind


She received him with rejoicing. She admired his prudence, and told him

his bravery could never be questioned again. Lifting up the head, she

said he need only have brought the scalp. She cut off a small piece for

herself, and told him he might now return with the head, which would be

evidence of an achievement that would cause the Indians to respect him.

In your way home, she said, you will meet with but one difficulty.

Maunkah Keesh Woccaung, or the spirit of the Earth, requires an offering

from those who perform extraordinary achievements. As you walk along in

a prairie, there will be an earthquake. The earth will open and divide

the prairie in the middle. Take this partridge and throw it into the

opening, and instantly spring over it. All this happened precisely as it

had been foretold. He cast the partridge into the crevice and leapt over

it. He then proceeded without obstruction to a place near his village,

where he secreted his trophy. On entering the village he found his

parents had returned from the place of their spring encampment, and were

in great sorrow for their son, whom they supposed to be lost. One and

another of the young men had presented themselves to the disconsolate

parents, and said, "Look up, I am your son." Having been often deceived

in this manner, when their own son actually presented himself, they sat

with their heads down, and with their eyes nearly blinded with weeping.

It was some time before they could be prevailed upon to bestow a glance

upon him. It was still longer before they recognized him for their son;

when he recounted his adventures they believed him mad. The young men

laughed at him. He left the lodge and soon returned with his trophy. It

was soon recognized. All doubts of the reality of his adventures now

vanished. He was greeted with joy and placed among the first warriors of

the nation. He finally became a chief, and his family were ever after

respected and esteemed.

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